Summary: Esther is a great study on God’s timing and our obedience of faith. What has God got scheduled for your life?
God loves to take that which is nothing in the eyes of the world and work his greatest wonders. As Paul was praying for God to remove what he called “a thorn in my flesh,” God said: 2 Cor. 12:9 "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
God has often used unlikely leaders to accomplish amazing deliverance and blessing for his people. Who would have thought a poor carpenter’s son from an obscure village in Palestine would be the Savior of the World and Lord of all creation? Who would have guessed that a shepherd boy with a sling and 5 stones would defeat the greatest warrior in the Philistine army and become the king through whom the Christ came? The biblical hall of fame is characterized by a long list of unlikely subjects who trusted God and were used by him to accomplish more than they could ask or imagine. Unlikely men, women and children, God has used and continues to use to do great things at critical times.
In today’s lesson we will look at another unlikely hero who God used to save the entire Jewish nation from annihilation. She is an orphaned Jewish girl named Hadassah, who was raised by her older cousin, Mordecai. We know her better by her other name: Esther.
Think about the times Esther lived in. It was a time of return for the Jewish exiles. It is a time of restoration of Israel in Jerusalem, a time of struggle for them as they rebuild and reestablish the worship and Jewish nation. It was also a time of preparation for war for Persia. The place is Susa, capital of the Persian Empire. The year is about 485 B.C. King Ahasuerus rules from India to Ethiopia and he is planning an attack on Greece. This may be the reason for the massive party we read about in the first chapter. This was Xerxes I whose attempt to take Greece ended in disaster for his army and navy. Through Esther we get a privileged personal perspective of this powerful king. This Persian king is rich, drinks a lot, and likes to have a show-case wife who will do what he wants. He’s not accustomed to having anyone say “no” to him. But at his big party in chapter 1, when drinking too much, he summons his queen wife, Vashti, to come display her beauty before his guests. Vashti is having a party of her own and she refuses to come.
Ahasuerus is completely bumfuzzeled. She said, NO! How can she say, no? Now what? How do you handle an insubordinate wife? He has to call a meeting of his advisors to figure out what his next move is. And do you know what they tell him? Ooooh. This is serious business. Vashti is a role model for every woman in the Empire! If she gets away with this blatant disobedience, all the other women of the empire will follow suit and there is no end to the problems this will bring. This feminist movement must be stopped now! Nip it, nip it, nip it in the bud! Here’s the plan… Depose Vashti and round up all the beautiful young women of the land to pick a replacement from one of them and install the one that pleases the king most in the place of that insubordinate Vashti. Ole Xerxes liked that idea. So that’s what they did. It was time to pick a new queen. Just about the time Esther was entering womanhood and was very beautiful. There’s a blessing and burden of being beautiful. Vashti has discovered that too. What will happen to Esther?
Well, the story continues. Esther is selected as one of the prospective picks of Ahasuerus. Mordecai tells her not to disclose her Jewish identity, so she somehow keeps that a secret which figures into the plot later. Well, you know what happens don’t you? Of all the beautiful women of the land, Esther is selected by the king. Within a short time, Mordecai hears about a plot to kill the king and he tells Esther. She relates this to the king giving Mordecai credit. An investigation takes place and the plot is uncovered and the king’s life is saved. This gets recorded in the chronicles, another matter that figures into the plot later.
At this point Haman, the enemy of the Jews, is introduced. For some unmentioned reason Ahasuerus promotes this guy to a very high position and everyone is supposed to bow before him when he goes by. But when he passes by Mordecai, Mordecai won’t bow or pay homage to him. There is some ancient bad blood between these two. Well, this makes Haman so mad he decides on a terrible revenge, instead of just killing Mordecai, he will have ALL the Jews killed. What a nasty guy! Well, Haman goes to the king and tells him that there are a certain people in the provinces that are disobedient to the king and who should be destroyed. He then offers to fund their extermination. Ahasuerus trusts Haman so much that he gives him authority to do it even giving Haman his signet ring to seal a decree to have them all killed. It appears that king Ahasuerus doesn’t know it is the Jews Haman is planning to destroy.